Okotoks… A silent whisperer of History.

What started as a thought for a pleasure drive to kill the two hours we had in hand, soon turned out to be a drive down the history lane and a chance to see the country side.

Hubby and I, along with another couple wanted to go out and explore the place a little bit and we found ourselves in a small town called Okatoks, just outside of Calgary.Right from trying to pronounce the name of the town to its historic tales, it proved to be an unique experience for me.This is the closest, I have ever been to the countryside.

Let me warn you upfront that my memory is not that great, so I may not have all the facts, figures and names correct. 🙂 But, the stories… you bet, I got it right….

The town of Okatoks

Okatoks is located 18 kms south of Calgary along the Sheep River Valley and resembles to what I call, a country life. The town itself is small and amazingly beautiful. There are no high rise buildings and residents are super friendly.The city streets are not multi-laned(except a few) and the town itself is quiet.There are a lot of ranches around and horses just grazing along the fields.

Okatoks had a population of just 1000 in 1960 but currently stands at around 24000 (according to a resident).Before the arrival of trains, they had something called as the bull train where bulls were used to carry in the supplies and other materials.These bull trains were close to 400 mts long  and they travelled at a speed of 18 kms per day. That means what took us 40 mins to travel by car had taken them close to 3 days.

Some interesting tales of the town.

  • There had been floods in the town, the latest huge one being in 2005 where the entire town was flooded.
  • There had been a couple of accidental  fires in this town that had burnt down buildings every now and then.One notable fire was when some arsonist set fire to couple of buildings before he was caught.
  • The teacher for the first school lived some 30 kms away and traveled by a horse to teach at the school.And during winter, she just camped nearby.
  • When the town was beginning to come alive, the government offered free land to lure people into coming there.

The Station Cultural Center

The station Cultural Centre, Okotoks, Alberta which was once a Canadian Pacific Railway station

The station Cultural Centre, Okotoks, Alberta which was once a Canadian Pacific Railway station

The cultural center holds many themed exhibitions and at the time we visited, it was the ‘Egyptian’ themed exhibits.The exhibit had many jewellery , utensils and other stuff from the ancient times with many models of things like Mummies.Proved to be an interesting read and view.

The Building itself has a history behind it. It had been the Okatoks Railway Station with Canadian Pacific sending its last train sometime in the 70’s.The station still has the railway lines and resemble scenes out of movies.A lovely place with huge trees around it.

Okatoks Museum

An amazing two floored structure that told us the history of Okatoks. Stories of the first people to land in Okatoks. Pictures of various important events in the town. The olden day household articles are displayed with a story of the respective owners. An amazing leather vest that was hand made for a nurse, the bag in which sugar was sold and the earlier washing ways are just  few of the items displayed.The things in the museum were all simple, but what made them priceless was the story behind every picture.
The museum building that was moved from one land to another

The museum building that was moved from one land to another

The museum itself has an interesting story behind it. In olden days, the museum had been a house to many a people before it came to be what it is today. In 2000, the government wanted to bring the structure down as it was in the way of their road plans. But the community decided that this building was too priceless to be torn down. The whole town pitched in the amount and the entire house was moved from the old location to its current location. And they have pictures of the move with people cheering and celebrating.

The Big Rock

The town got its name from a big piece of rock (called the Big Rock.No creativity there) that has supposedly travelled 415 km some 10,000 years ago.Big Rock is a piece of glacial erratic rock. As the official website of Okotoks says, ‘Erratics are rocks that are not native to the area where they are found, but were transported in the ice of a glacier during the ice age. Big Rock comes from the Wisconsin glacier (Jasper area).‘. Some sites also claim that Big Rock is the largest erractics in the present world.

The Big Rock is located some 10 kms southwest of Okotoks.It is a huge piece of rock that stands out in the open grounds. The beauty of it is because no other rock can be found in the surrounding areas.

The Blackfoot Legend of the Big Rock

Big Rock, Okotoks, Alberta

Big Rock, Okotoks, Alberta

On a hot summer day,a guy called  Napi, wanted to rest on a rock. He spread his robe on the rock, telling the rock to keep the robe in return for letting him rest there. Suddenly, the weather changed and Napi became cold as the wind whistled and the rain fell. Napi asked the rock to return his robe, but the rock refused. Napi got mad and just took the clothing. As he strolled away, he heard a loud noise and turning, he saw the rock was rolling after him. Napi ran for his life. The deer, the bison and the pronghorn were Napi’s friends, and they tried to stop the rock by running in front of it. The rock rolled over them. Napi’s last chance was to call on the bats for help. Fortunately, they did better than their hoofed neighbours, and by diving at the rock and colliding with it, one of them finally hit the rock just right and it broke into two pieces.   Not only does this story explain why the rock is in two pieces, but also why bats have squashed-looking faces. The tale provides helpful caution against taking back what you have given away.

                                                                                                          – The official website of Okotoks.

I am kinda sure this tale is not true, but one thing is sure.The climate can change in a second. It is supposedly summer here, but at the Big Rock,when I visited, it was so windy and freezing cold.

So, here are few pictures of Okotoks for you.

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3 thoughts on “Okotoks… A silent whisperer of History.

  1. I grew up in Okotoks from the age of 4 yrs old until I graduated highschool there in 1988. I loved it there and it was a great place to grow up. We used to ride our bikes out to the Big Rock in the summer time and also tube down the Sheep River.
    Thanks for this info and pics… brings back a lot of memories.

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